Monthly Archives: August 2014

August 22nd, 2014

History of Fire Insurance Maps

Photo courtesy of Historical Information Gatherers

Photo courtesy of Historical Information Gatherers

For environmental consultants, fire insurance maps (FIMs) can be a goldmine of historical information that is relevant to today’s environmental conditions on a particular property.  These FIMs were created for fire insurance companies to evaluate the degree of hazard for a particular building or area.  FIMs were first created in London in the late 1700s, and the practice quickly spread to the U.S.  The most well-known FIM company, the D. A. Sanborn National Insurance Diagram Bureau (later renamed to Sanborn Map Company) was founded in 1867 with an atlas of  fire insurance maps of the Boston area.  That book can be found today in the Library of Congress.

FIMs documented information that can still be important when conducting historical research during a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment.  They are recognized by ASTM as one of the standard historical sources that may be used to determine if a Recognized Environmental Condition (REC) exists at the subject site.

Key environmental information that can be found on a FIM includes: storage tanks (including gasoline, heating oil, etc.); historical use of the property or adjoining properties; location of petroleum products; industrial processes; heating sources; chemical storage; etc.  Other useful information that may be available: if a basement is present, when a building was constructed, and general layouts.

Historical Information Gatherers (HIG) has recently released an interesting white paper about the history of fire insurance maps.  The white paper includes information about land use, structures and possible environmental issues that one can discover using FIMs, as well as how FIMs were created and updated.  It is available for a free download on HIG’s website.  HIG is in the process of digitizing more than 500,000 color FIMs available through the Library of Congress.

More information about the history of the Sanborn Map Company is available on the Library of Congress website.


August 15th, 2014

Has your facility received a Facility Classification Questionnaire (FCQ)?

Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) has been mailing out its Facility Classification Questionnaire (FCQ) to potential new Users within its district.  These FCQs are sent to facilities that MWRD MWRD colorbelieves may need to change its classification or need to be established as a new User.


User categories include:

  • Small Nonresidential Commercial-Industrial User – no reporting requirements, except if changing classification
  • Residential Users – no reporting requirements
  • Local Government Users – no reporting requirements
  • Tax-Exempt Users – required submission of RD-925 annually; some User Charge testing may also be required
  • Large Commercial-Industrial Users – required submission of RD-925 annually; some User Charge testing may also be required


This FCQ requests the following information:

  • General Facility Information (company name, address, tax ID number, dates of operation, number of employees, etc)
  • Real Estate Property Tax ID Number (PIN) and taxes paid to MWRD
  • Description of manufacturing, production or service activities, including what raw materials and additives are used
  • Types and volume of liquid wastes or sludges
  • Pretreatment devices or processes used
  • Number of incoming water meters and total water consumption
  • Number of outlets to sewer system and types of waste discharged
  • Signature by corporate officer, partner, fiduciary, or other duly authorized agent of the User


MWRD requires a response to its FCQ within 30 days of it being received by the User.

This FCQ can be confusing for new or expanded facilities within MWRD’s governing area.  Gabriel can help answer any questions you may have about the FCQ or the User Charge system, or Gabriel can complete the FCQ on your behalf.

Gabriel is well-versed with the User Charge Ordinance, including sampling and reporting requirements.  We can help you navigate through this initial classification process, as well as any sampling or reporting requirements which may be required by MWRD after they process the FCQ.

Contact Antonio Tabacchi or Brigid McHale at 773-486-2123 or via email water[at]gabenv.com with any questions or for assistance with your FCQ today.


August 6th, 2014

What the heck is a “CREC”?

When the new E1527-13 Phase I Environmental Site Assessment standard was released in late 2013, ASTM included a new term: CREC. ASTMlogo

A CREC is a Controlled Recognized Environmental Condition, a subset of the traditional REC. CREC was developed to address the controlled presence of potential hazardous substances or petroleum products, as defined by the local environmental regulatory agency.

CREC examples:

  • Site A had a Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) incident which was cleaned up to the satisfaction of the IEPA, with a land use restriction (eg: could only be used for commercial-industrial use). This would be considered a CREC since there are still hazardous substances and/or petroleum products present on the property, however the property has  been deemed safe for commercial or industrial use (though not residential use).
  • Site B was a former industrial operation that went through the Site Remediation Program (SRP) cleanup process. As part of the No Further Remediation (NFR) letter, the contaminated part of the property must remain capped by an engineered barrier. This would be considered a CREC since there are still hazardous substances present on the property, however they have been controlled by the engineered barrier.

Though the CREC is considered a REC, most CRECs would not be a major concern for a buyer or their lender. This language was developed to clarify situations such as these in order to give purchasers and lenders greater peace of mind about these sites.